Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy.

I acknowledge some very senior people from the Mullingar rotary club and its president, Councillor Robert Troy, who have visited the House today to be present for the tributes that are about to be paid. I welcome them to the House.

I wish to convey my sincere condolences, and those of my Fianna Fáil colleagues, to Seán Keegan's wife, Mary, and his children, Maria, Nan, Nuala, Tom and Gearóid on the sad loss of a very fine man. He was a loyal and loving husband, a dedicated father and a loyal servant of the people of County Westmeath.

Seán was truly committed to the people of Longford-Westmeath and worked tirelessly on their behalf in the county council, Seanad Éireann and Dáil Éireann. He was a committed republican and a politician who took great pride in representing the people of County Westmeath. As many of his friends in both Houses will know, Seán came from a patriotic family with a strong background in public service. His father was active in the War of Independence and Seán developed a strong association with many of the founding fathers of the Fianna Fáil party. He was a true supporter of core values and was steadfast in his belief of what they stood for.

Seán Keegan was first elected to Westmeath County Council in 1955, when Éamon de Valera was leader of Fianna Fáil, and was the youngest council member elected. He entered Dáil Éireann in 1977 but by that time was considered an established Member of Leinster House. Seán was first elected to Seanad Éireann in a 1970 by-election and was re-elected to the Seanad in 1973. In the general election of 1977 he received such overwhelming support from the people of Longford-Westmeath that his surplus allowed Albert Reynolds be elected to Dáil Éireann for the first time.

Seán served with great distinction on many committees and in many areas of the county. He was a member of the vocational education committee, VEC, in County Westmeath, the Westmeath Agricultural Committee, the Midland Health Board and Westmeath Health Board during the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. Seán was a member of the Council of Europe, Mullingar Chamber of Commerce and many clubs in Kilbeggan, Castletown Geoghegan, Ballinagore, Horseleap, Dysart and all the surrounding areas where he served with great pride for many years. He was also president of Fianna Fáil's Westmeath Comhairle Dáil Ceantar.

I remember Seán as a dependable courteous person who was a gentleman to those he worked with and those he met on life's highways and byways. I went door to door with him often and attended many cumann meetings in parishes and at crossroads throughout the county for many years. He was committed to the framework of the cumann and believed if it was not served and the parishes looked after the organisation would disappear. He was a keen contributor at the council and at parliamentary party meetings, particularly on issues relating to rural Ireland and his beloved midlands.

Throughout his time in Leinster House Seán was a dedicated, hard-working Member and viewed it as an honour to represent the people of his constituency. He worked diligently to improve the quality of life of all those in his community, especially the less well-off. To sum up this tribute in a sentence, Seán Keegan was champion of the underprivileged. He stayed up day and night working as hard as possible to help those most in need. I know this through witnessing his work at first hand on dozens of occasions.

Seán will be sadly missed by his wife, Mary, his five children and his extended family and friends. We, on this side of the House, will remember him as a loyal and faithful friend who served in both Houses of the Oireachtas, at local government level and worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents. The people of Longford-Westmeath have lost a loyal and true friend. Go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.

It is an honour to rise today, on behalf of the Fine Gael group in the Seanad, to pay tribute to a former Member of the Oireachtas, Deputy and Senator, Seán Keegan and extend sympathy to his wife, family, friends and Fianna Fáil colleagues.

Seán Keegan showed a deep and unwavering commitment to public service as a member of a local authority and as a Member of Dáil Eireann and Seanad Éireann. While his time as a Member of the Oireachtas ended before mine began, he served from 1955 to 1982 and this is a long period of public service. I have heard many stories about his courtesy, kind ways and the helping hand and advice he always offered to new parliamentarians. I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to his wife, Mary, his family, former colleagues and the Fianna Fáil Party on the loss of a stalwart son. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Ní raibh aon aithne agam ar Seán Keegan, cé gur bhuail mé leis uair nó dhó. However, on behalf of the Independent benches I wish to be associated with the words said by the Leader in a fine tribute.

We on the Independent benches always seek to put on the record that we recognise and appreciate the diligent public service of people like the former Senator, Seán Keegan, as this is what keeps democracy going. He served time at county council level, in the Seanad and Dáil and people like him grease the wheels of democracy. I also wish to be associated with the condolences offered to his wife, Mary, and family as it is clear that a person with Seán Keegan's level of commitment and involvement must have received great support and tolerance from them.

I note with interest the Leader's comments on Seán Keegan's commitment to the public service because I said some angry words on the Order of Business this morning relating to attitudes to the public service. Mr. Keegan was represented in terms of education, on the VEC, on agricultural committees, and on the health boards. No more could be asked of a public representative in terms of participation in national politics than to commit to these three huge areas. We might disagree on how we approach these areas but his commitment was hugely important.

We wish to be associated with these expressions of sympathy and sympathise with the Fianna Fáil Party, which has lost a loyal supporter. Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé. Aithnímid an obair a dhein sé agus é sa Teach seo, sa Dáil agus sa chomhairle contae. B'fhéidir go mbeidh seans agam amach anseo níos mó a léamh ar an mhéid a dhein sé, but in the meantime we offer our condolences and wish to be associated with the other expressions of sympathy that have been offered.

On behalf of the Labour Party I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy directed towards the family of Seán Keegan and the Fianna Fáil Party. I did not know Mr. Keegan personally but my colleague, Deputy Willie Penrose, knew him well as a man of considerable integrity with a strong agricultural background and an ear for all of his constituents. He was widely experienced and had a broad set of political skills relating to the area he represented.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I wish to extend sympathy to the family of Seán Keegan on its sad loss.

I wish to join the expressions of sympathy on the death of the former Member, Seán Keegan. Similar to other Members, his involvement in public life well preceded mine and it also preceded the foundation of my party. Politics in this country continues to evolve thanks to the contributions of people like Mr. Keegan. The eloquence with which the Leader opened these expressions of sympathy was matched by the sincerity of one who knows the value and worth of the contribution made by the person to whom tribute is given. On behalf of my party, I express sympathy to the friends and family of Mr. Keegan.

I wish to be associated with the tributes paid to former Senator, Deputy and Councillor Seán Keegan. I convey my condolences to his family. The presence in the Gallery of so many colleagues, friends and associates from his community is a tribute to his commitment to public life. As Senator O'Toole observed, this commitment encompassed not only the political sphere but also his great community involvement, particularly with the GAA. We all have our own political preferences but Mr. Keegan's commitment to the Fianna Fáil organisation is worthy of commendation. He was clearly a man of great talent to be so well appreciated within his community not only in respect of his political life but also for his contribution to agricultural, educational and health issues. His was a life dedicated to public service.

Unfortunately, I did not know Mr. Keegan, but it is important to recognise the contribution of former Members. We hope that we will continue in the spirit of the contribution made by Mr. Keegan to public life.

Ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le bean agus clann Seán Mac Aogáin, a fuair bás le déanaí. Bhí aithne agam ar Sheán le fada agus ba fear macánta, dílis agus díograsach é.

I knew Seán Keegan for many years. When I first became a member of Westmeath County Council in 1979, Seán was the leader of the Fianna Fáil group. My knowledge of Seán pre-dated 1979 in that my first vote in a general election was cast for him. I was always struck by his commitment to the public he served. He was a champion of the underprivileged. Nobody could ever claim to have had no response to a telephone call or visit to him. Seán Keegan was the consummate contributor to public life and he was absolutely at his best in serving those who needed his service.

He had a strong commitment to the agricultural sector and he never lost an opportunity to articulate the needs and woes of those involved. He was a trenchant debater in Westmeath County Council. When he was fighting an issue, the engineer, manager or official who said "No" to Seán Keegan would have to have his or her facts and figures right. It was my experience that Seán nearly always won the day. I also had the great privilege of serving with him on the county committee on agriculture, where he excelled. As a member of the Midland Health Board for many years, Seán served through difficult times. He was also a member of the farm advisory sub-committee. The Cathaoirleach served with him at that time and I am sure he too was astounded by the depth of Seán's knowledge of this sector.

Seán was motivated by the highest principles that should obtain in public life. When he was elected to the Dáil in 1977, it was not a question of him measuring up to the job but of whether the job would measure up to his standards. He gave everything he had to public life. He was a Member of this House for some seven years. When he lost his Dáil seat in the election of November 1982, he did so by only a handful of votes. Being the man he was, he did not stand back from the party but instead continued to contribute.

One of his great strengths was his organisational ability. There was no cumann in Westmeath, no mater how small, that was not organised on at least an annual basis when Seán Keegan was a Deputy. He engendered a spirit of great pride in being involved in a political party but he also had great respect for those of other political persuasions. The late, great Gerry L'Estrange, Joe Sheridan and many others served in the Oireachtas and the county council with Seán. They would bat each other across the floor but were the best of friends outside it. Their activities and the words uttered within the Chamber were always in the best interests of the people they served.

I could speak at great length about Seán Keegan's attributes. Suffice to say, I was privileged to know him and to have served with him. I convey my sincerest sympathy to his wife, Mary, and children, Maria, Nan, Nuala, Tom and Gearóid, and his extended family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

I speak on behalf of the Fine Gael Party in Longford-Westmeath and on behalf of my family. My father knew Seán Keegan well. I extend my condolences and sincere sympathy to his wife, Mary, and children, Gearóid, Tom, Nan, Maria and Nuala. Sadly, I did not know Seán, but I understand he always put the people of Westmeath firmly ahead of party politics. He was concerned always with what was best for Westmeath and was never afraid to express his views, either in the county council, Seanad or Dáil. I have been told by the many people in Westmeath who speak so highly of him that he was always rigid in his defence of the core values of honesty and decency.

I wish his wife, Mary, well. I extend my condolences to my colleagues in Fianna Fáil on the sad loss of the late, great Seán Keegan. I join the Leader in welcoming the visitors from Westmeath, especially my former colleague, Councillor Robert Troy. I am pleased to see him here.

Like my colleagues, I express sympathy with the family of the late Seán Keegan. I had the pleasure of serving with him in the Oireachtas from 1977 to 1982. He was a true and perfect gentleman. I also had the privilege of sharing an office with him for a short period. I learned from him that one must do what one is asked by one's constituents or else face their wrath. I wish to be associated with the sentiments of sympathy to his wife and family. I extend to them our deepest sympathy on his sad passing. I also take this opportunity to wish Mrs. Keegan a speedy recovery from illness.

I did not know the former Deputy, Senator and Councillor Seán Keegan, but as a Tullamore woman, I live only seven miles from Kilbeggan. There were no boundaries as far as Seán Keegan was concerned and he was well known in Tullamore and throughout Offaly. I wish to be associated with the sympathy expressed on his passing. I first learned of his illness when I canvassed Tom Cowley in Kilbeggan during the summer. He died shortly after that. I know Gearóid well because he is working in Tullamore. Like Senator Ellis, I wish Mr. Keegan's wife, Mary, a speedy recovery.

I would like to be associated with the tributes to the late Seán Keegan, who was a member of this House from 1970 to 1977. Seán served the people of Westmeath at local and national level and made a major contribution to political life as a member of the Midland Health Board, councillor, Senator and Deputy. I knew Seán best as a member of the Midland Health Board, where he was a loyal colleague. He was on the farm advisory committee of the board, with responsibility for two large farms in Mullingar and Portlaoise. He ensured both were profit-making enterprises at a time when profits were very important to the finances of the board and for some of the patients in the care of the board's institutions.

He will be sadly missed by all his colleagues in the Oireachtas and especially by the people of Westmeath whom he represented so loyally for so many years. Seán was also a lifelong member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association.

I extend my sincere sympathy to his wife, Mary, sons, Tom and Gearóid, daughters, Maria, Nan and Nuala, as well as to his extended family on their sad loss.

Members rose.